I find the attempt to shut down the debate over Sotomayor by crying racism and crowing over the supposed fatal political damage Republicans will do to themselves by opposing her bullying and outrageous. But we do have to be smart about this.
My advice, which tracks with that of others today, is: 1) Don’t call her names, and yes, “stupid” and “racist” are names; 2) Don’t whine about the double standard when a) it’s just a fact that a white male can’t say the kind of things she did in her “Latina lecture” and survive (if you don’t understand why, you haven’t paid attention to American history) and b) liberal Democrats can get away with viciously opposing a Latino nominee like Miguel Estrada without paying a real political price because Latinos aren’t primed to believe that liberal Democrats are hostile to them and their interests (plus, the public doesn’t really pay attention to appeals-court nominees); 3) Do treat her personally with an extra measure of respect because old-fashioned people — and thank goodness, there are still a lot of them out there — will expect a woman to get more deference than a man.
That said, she should be vigorously opposed on grounds of her judicial record and of that Latina Lecture and similar statements. Conservatives have a wide opening to align themselves with the rule of law and the values of fairness (properly understood) and impartiality, crucial ground that Obama has ceded with his emphasis on “empathy” as a method of judging. But I think of fairness and impartiality as — to speak in Marshall McLuhan terms — cool and calm qualities. No one is going to believe you represent them if you are nasty or over-personal — another reason why getting the tone of our opposition to Sotomayor’s confirmation right is so important.